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News you can use about traveling to Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming with kids or friends.

Getting ready for the summer season

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Kudos to Sean Reichard for keeping us up-to-date on various Yellowstone issues!

First, I was glad to learn from yellowstoneinsider.com that Superintendent Dan Wenk will not be leaving Yellowstone soon, as reported recently. He has been doing an excellent job. I was privileged to meet him during a January 2012 Tauck Tour of the Park.

Today, I learned from Sean that as of June first, 2018, not only will the fee to enter either Yellowstone or Grand Teton go up from $30 to $35 (good for one week), but one can no longer buy a joint annual pass to both parks.

At least, we can be thankful that after strong negative reaction from the public, the fees did not rise to the originally proposed $70.

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What are those pairs of numbers in the road logs of Yellowstone Treasures?

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Elk crossing Madison River, September 2016.

Recently two readers wrote to ask what the numbers next to so many entries mean. As author Janet Chapple wrote in her nugget called “The Features of Yellowstone Treasures,” “Some people get confused about how to use the mileage markings in the road logs in my book. I explain these in the Introduction [on page 17]. They show the distance from an entrance or major junction as well as the distance from the other direction, since a visitor may be traveling either way when consulting the guidebook.”

Here’s one letter we just received on April 1, 2018.

Hello,

Just purchased Yellowstone Treasures and still trying to figure what to visit in June this year and which trails to hike. I have one question, which I still can’t find the answer to while following the book.

You have numbers in front of some trails, like 0.0/20.5 “Yellowstone National Park boundary” on page 33 or 0.9/19.6 Dailey Creek Trailhead, and many others.

What do these mean? How should I use them in planning the trip and the places to visit?

Thanks,
Ross

Well, much of the guidebook is written as a road log, which means the author and her husband Bruno Giletti actually drove the roads to find out how far from the major road junctions or villages each trailhead or picnic area is located. To follow this explanation best, look at pages 286-87 in your book or open this link to the “From Norris Junction to Madison Junction” book excerpt. Each chapter in the guidebook starts with the junction or park boundary given as 0.0, like this:

0.0/13.4 Norris Junction. . . .

From there it’s just under 4 miles (3.9 mile) to the Artists’ Paintpots, so that paragraph starts:

3.9/9.5 Side road to parking for Artists’ Paintpots . . . [with icons that show you this is a recommended hike and there are restrooms]

But suppose you’re doing the chapter in the other direction, because you entered the park at the West or South Entrance and are coming from Madison Junction. Then you can see that the hydrothermal area is 9.5 miles from that end of the road (the second in the pair of numbers). See the map to confirm that Artists’ Paintpots is about a third of the distance from Norris to Madison (and for a recommendation that you look across the road in Gibbon Meadows for wildlife such as elk or bison).

We don’t really expect everyone to be zeroing their trip meter in the car every time they come to an entrance or a junction (though you could!). And people even use the book when they are riding on a bus tour. So the mileage indicators serve to show you the order of the sights and help you plan approximately how long it will take to get places. For example, if you are heading north to Norris, you know it’s just 0.6 mile after the Artists’ Paintpots to a picnic area.

When you are planning your trip don’t forget you can also use the driving distance chart on pages 20-21 to figure out how much you could get to see in a day. Hope that helps!

Photo Credit: The photo of elk is by Suzanne Cane. We use it on page 41 of Yellowstone Treasures, updated fifth edition.

—Editor and Publisher, Beth Chapple

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Is It Spring Yet? and What To Expect on Yellowstone’s Roads This Summer

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Once upon a time, a friend of mine who lives in Switzerland offered to meet me in a Yellowstone springtime to take pictures for my guidebook. He wrote that April would be a good time for him. But no, I wrote back, in April many roads are still closed, and the chances of more snow are still quite great. The park is totally closed for road plowing and other maintenance until mid April, and most facilities don’t open until some time in May.

Today we are four days past the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere, but this Old Faithful Geyser webcam still is what I found this morning on the Old Faithful webcam.

You will understand why spring is so late in Yellowstone, if you factor in that most auto-accessible areas in Yellowstone are at 7,000 to 8,000 feet (about 2,100 to 2,400 meters) in altitude. This spring the park roads will begin reopening on Friday, April 20th, when the West Entrance to Madison Junction, Mammoth Hot Springs to Old Faithful village, and Norris to Canyon Junction roads will open. Higher stretches of road open throughout May, with the last being the Northeast Entrance / Beartooth Highway opening on Friday, May 25th, for Memorial Day Weekend.

This summer season you can expect construction delays of up to thirty minutes on the five-mile stretch between Apollinaris Spring and Roaring Mountain (Mammoth to Norris road); on some parts of the rim roads and trails at the Canyon of the Yellowstone; and along the East Entrance Road between Indian Pond and Fishing Bridge.

Year-round, for Yellowstone road conditions, take a look at this NPS park roads website. Or you may receive Yellowstone road alerts from the National Park Service on your mobile phone by texting “82190” to 888-777; an automatic text reply will confirm receipt and provide instructions.

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Good news for visitors to Mammoth Hot Springs

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Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel with snowcoaches in winter


I had learned a couple of years ago that the historic hotel at Mammoth Hot Springs would be closed during the winters of 2016-17 and 2017-18 for major reconstruction. Now plans have changed, according to the Public Affairs Office; right now you can reserve rooms for winter visits, starting on December 15th, with the dates similar to those for the Old Faithful Snow Lodge and Cabins. Visit Xanterra’s Winter Lodges page or call 1-307-344-7311 to book your room.

Starting in fall 2018 through winter season 2018–19 you will find the hotel closed again for further work on the interior, but I expect the related cabins, the dining room, and the casual Terrace Grill will be open.

Incidentally, in recent summers I’ve found meals in the pleasant hotel dining room—located across the street from the hotel proper—to be excellent. So far, this dining room has not required advance reservations, but that could change.

Photo credit: Jim Peaco, National Park Service, December 12, 2012

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Road Closure in Fall 2017

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Map from the guidebook’s Mammoth to Norris road log

In the most recent edition of Yellowstone Treasures you’ll find this note: “Construction on the Norris to Mammoth road is scheduled to continue through 2018.” Here is the latest report on the construction.

Since June 11, the Norris to Mammoth road has been closed nightly from 10 pm to 7 am (excluding Saturday nights). The word is to expect 30-minute delays in the daytime when driving between Roaring Mountain (the magenta dot east of the road on this map) and the Indian Creek Campground (the tent icon down a short side road, almost opposite the Sheepeater Cliff picnic area). According to trip reports on the Facebook group Yellowstone Up Close and Personal, the daytime delays are usually not as long as 30 minutes.

The important news is that from September 10 (10 pm) to October 6 (7 am), this section of road will be closed to all traffic (day and night). During the closures, people will be able to detour over Dunraven Pass (between Tower Fall and Canyon).

Norris and Indian Creek Campgrounds, at opposite ends of the road segment, are remaining open during the season. During the road closure you will not be able to see Apollinaris Spring, nor Obsidian Cliff, nor will you be able to hike the Mount Holmes Trail. You can still hike the Bunsen Peak Trail from the north.

Remember to check the National Park Service’s Park Roads page before you head out.

CREDIT: Linton Brown revised this map for Yellowstone Treasures, Updated Fifth Edition (2017). You can find it on page 277.

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This quote by lbrock21 accompanied a five-star Amazon review of the Kindle e-book on August 25, 2014. Readers are finding several advantages to getting a travel guide in electronic format, including saving weight while traveling. We released the updated fifth edition of Yellowstone Treasures in three e-book formats on June 30, 2017: ePub, Kindle, and PDF. All three offer live links to other parts of the book and sites on the Web, along with helpful full-color maps. Many e-book stores also offer the opportunity to get a free sample.
Yellowstone Treasures 5th edition cover

Readers find both the list of maps in the Table of Contents and the “54 Recommended Short Walks in Yellowstone” table to be handy, because they are organized by road log section in the same order as the guidebook. For example, if you find yourself at Canyon, you can see that all seven recommended walks on the chart can be found on the map on page 179 (a map completely revised for 2017).

Because the new Yellowstone Treasures ePub and Kindle versions have text that flows differently on every e-reader, they benefit from fully hyperlinked indexes that will get you to each topic or image. A quirk of the ePub is that text flow works best in portrait view for this e-book.

The PDF, on the other hand, retains the page numbering of the print book, so you can find topics by page number. Links go from the text nearby, not the page numbers. Look for the hand cursor. For example, on page 318 it says “a hydrothermal explosion such as the one that formed West Thumb Bay (see pages 138-39).” You can either put 138 into the page search box at the top (in Adobe Reader, for example) or click/tap on the words “West Thumb Bay” to get to the same place, where Janet explains how it’s a small caldera.

Here are a couple of tips that will help you get around with Yellowstone Treasures on different e-readers. In the ePub on the iPad, you can double-tap on an image or map to enlarge it. On the Kindle or Kindle app for iPad instead, you spread two fingers apart to zoom in, and then tap the x in the corner to close the image and continue.

As Ann Kristin Lindaas wrote us in April 2016 from Norway,

“I have already bought the print book and I really enjoy it. Essential for planning my days in Yellowstone! I will be traveling the US for about a month in September and I’m hoping to bring electronic versions of most of the books I’ve bought.”

Here’s to enjoying books in whatever form you choose! Cordially, Beth Chapple, editor and publisher.

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What happened to Yellowstone Treasures’ recommended trails?

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What happened to the number of trails we recommend between the fourth and fifth editions of Yellowstone Treasures?

Between publication of our fourth edition in 2013 and fifth edition in 2017, the number of recommended hiking trails in our short walks table (pages 366 to 368) shrank from fifty-six trails to fifty-four. Here’s what happened in the interim.

First, the good news: We now recommend one formerly omitted trail; the access to it reopened after a construction project was completed. This is the level Fairy Falls and Imperial Geyser Trail, about 6.4 miles round trip, described on page 67. Two projects completed just last month (July 2017) add to the lure of this trail. A large new parking lot makes the trail accessible to more people. Even better, a side trail with steps now leads steeply up the hill above the incredible Grand Prismatic Spring for a view almost equal to those you see in pictures taken from the air.

Fairy Falls

Fairy Falls tumbles off the Madison Plateau, by James St. John, August 5, 2012, Flickr
Click or tap for a much larger version

The three trails no longer on our recommended list are: from the Old Faithful Village area, part of the Mallard Lake Trail; from the West Thumb to Fishing Bridge segment, Lakeshore Trail, east segment; and from the Mammoth Junction to Norris Junction road segment, the Superintendent’s Campground Road Trail. I’ll explain why these are no longer in our trails table.

Until a few years ago, one could hike the Mallard Lake Trail for a short distance to see some hot pools and mud pots called the Pipeline Group, named for a former pipeline that ran in the area. Now those features are closed off to hikers.

The part of the Lakeshore Trail that led east from the meadow below Lake Lodge to Fishing Bridge is no longer maintained. And the Superintendent’s Campground Road from the Indian Creek Campground is also now closed off by park administration.

This leaves us with only fifty-four shorter trails to recommend. Maybe if you stayed all summer, you could do them all. . . .

Please be aware that some trails on both rims of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone are currently under construction. When you are at the Canyon Visitor Center be sure to ask which trails are open.

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“Stop the Car”

Categories: Park environs, Trip planning
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Here is an entertaining link to a Yellowstone Insider post I am happy to pass on.

I did not know about this place with the unusual name and will surely try to stop there when I pass through Silver Gate to enter the park through the Northeast Entrance next month.

The Beartooth Highway and Chief Joseph Scenic Byway are both beautiful ways to reach the newest entrance to Yellowstone. The former opened in 1936, and the latter was fully paved only in the 1990s.

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News about Yellowstone opening weekend

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I.
Today is the first day you can drive into the park from the North or East Entrance. What’s more, those of us stuck at home can now get predictions of the daytime eruptions of Old Faithful Geyser on the NPS website.

But, if you are anything like me, you are mostly celebrating that the time for your summer trip to this wonderful park is drawing nearer. Just one thing that may give us pause as we contemplate the sights we are anticipating seeing: the crowds are likely to be amazingly large.

Here are links to a University of Montana report (2.7 MB pdf file) on 2016 crowding in that state’s two national parks and a shorter summary of the report, emphasizing Yellowstone, by Sean Reichard of YellowstoneInsider.com.

II.
If you should happen to be one of the people driving into Yellowstone this weekend, you may want to take part in tomorrow’s Earth Day Walk for Science at Old Faithful. This echoes the Washington, DC, Walk for Science. As an ever-curious non-scientist, if I lived anywhere near the park, I would certainly want to participate in that.

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This Is When You Really Need “Yellowstone Treasures”

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Mud Volcano winter

Mud Volcano area in winter. As of today Yellowstone is still covered in snow; most travel by car starts April 21, 2017.

March—while you may still be wishing for spring—is a great month to plan a summer or fall trip to Yellowstone. Here are some ways that Yellowstone Treasures can help you plan, especially if you haven’t been to the park before.

First, if your time is going to be limited to two or three days, in the book’s introduction (pages 17 and 18) there’s a list of Best Sights. An enthusiastic Amazon.com customer last June wrote: “Ms. Chapple’s rating of one star for those sights that were ‘worth taking the time for,’ or two stars for those you ‘must see’ really helped us plan our two day stay. . . .” (But—if at all possible—I highly recommend that you stay a week or even more. You won’t regret it.)

Yellowstone has become so popular—with over 4.2 million visitors last year—that almost all the in-park cabin and hotel rooms are already booked. I have to blame this mostly on the large bus tours that book blocks of rooms a year or more ahead, knowing they can fill up their tours with no trouble. This leaves us individuals and families who plan later in the year with little recourse but to book rooms in gateway places like West Yellowstone, Moran, Cody, Cooke City, and Gardiner. You can, of course, book a space in campgrounds or in the only RV camping spot, if you are so inclined.

Fortunately, the gateway towns have lots of accommodations. You will find phone numbers and email addresses for the chambers of commerce of all the gateway towns in the back of YT, as well as how to contact the park concessionnaire, Xanterra (or Yellowstone Park Lodges). Also, see our Yellowstone Links for the chamber of commerce websites in those places. Online resources such as Booking.com can be a great help with finding rooms outside the park.

A chapter near the beginning of Yellowstone Treasures tells you all about the five different entrances to the park and what you’ll see on their approach roads. The bulk of the book (pages 38 to 301) is what you’ll use before you go, while you’re there, and for reference when you return home. It’s full of detailed maps made and kept up-to-date by my incomparable mapmaker, Linton A. Brown. Here is one from page 200 of the guidebook.
Yellowstone Treasures map

Happy planning!

Photo credit: Janet Chapple, 2012.

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